An insect venom allergy or insect allergy or sometimes also a wasp allergy is usually triggered in summer, late summer and sometimes also (when temperatures are warm) in autumn by a wide variety of insects through bites. Not everyone is naturally allergic to these insect bites. But whoever it is exposes themselves to a health risk. Since wasp venom or bee venom can cause life-threatening symptoms and complaints in some allergy sufferers, you should have an allergy test with your doctor in good time to protect yourself against insect venom allergy with preventive measures if necessary.
What is insect venom allergy?
According to abbreviationfinder, the skin prick test is an allergy test to check, for example, an allergic reaction to pollen or insect venom. Possible allergic substances are dripped onto the skin and then lightly pricked with a lancet. After 20 minutes, the reddening of the skin and the size of the wheal are assessed.
With an insect venom allergy, people have an allergic reaction to the sting of a bumblebee, wasp, bee, hornet, or other similar insect. If one of the insects mentioned feels threatened, the animals defend themselves with their sting, whereby the respective insect venom is injected under the skin and, in the worst case, can trigger an insect venom allergy.
There are also people who develop an allergy to insect venom when they are bitten by an ant. An insect venom allergy is an overreaction to the ingredients in the venom. For normal people, a sting from the native insects is usually harmless. Usually, an insect venom allergy only becomes noticeable after a repeated sting.
Insect venom allergy is caused by a sting from a poisonous insect. People who suffer from insect venom allergies are primarily allergic to the venom of wasps and bees. The stings of the giant knot ant and bumblebees, on the other hand, cause a corresponding insect venom allergy much less frequently. In honey bees, only females are capable of causing an allergy to insect venom through a sting.
Unlike most other forms of allergy, genetic predisposition probably does not play a major role in the development of an insect venom allergy. Various ingredients contained in the poison, which vary from insect species to insect species, are responsible for the allergic reaction. However, there are many people who are hypersensitive to both bee and wasp stings, since two substances responsible for insect venom allergy are present in the venoms of both insect species.
Hornet venom has approximately the same allergenic composition as wasp venom. However, since hornets bite far less frequently, an insect venom allergy is also much less common in this regard.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
In the case of an insect venom allergy, swelling develops in the area of the insect bite, which is usually itchy and reddened around the bite. These symptoms are usually harmless and disappear within a day. More serious is the body’s allergic reaction to the allergen. An allergic shock can affect the entire organism and in particular the respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems.
In the respiratory tract, swallowing and speaking difficulties, a runny nose, shortness of breath and swelling can occur. Red, watery and itchy eyes are also typical. In the area of the circulatory system, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness set in, often accompanied by states of anxiety and panic attacks.
Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps occur in the gastrointestinal tract. The exact symptoms and symptoms that occur depend on the type of allergen and the period of treatment. If the poison is removed immediately, the symptoms subside after just a few days, while severe complications can lead to serious complications that sometimes have long-term consequences. In extreme cases, the allergy sufferer falls into a coma after a sting or suffers a heart attack. The first signs of an impending loss of consciousness are dizziness, blurred vision and breathing difficulties.
Course of the disease
In the case of insect venom allergy, there are five different degrees of disease progression. At grade 0, there is localized swelling larger than the palm of a hand. Grade I insect venom allergy manifests itself as a mild general reaction, usually generalized hives, with nausea, anxiety, and itching. In insect venom allergy grade II, the symptoms known from grade I can occur, as well as swelling of the lips, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, Dizziness and chest tightness.
In grade III insect venom allergy, severe general reactions are to be expected. In addition to the symptoms of grade II, swallowing difficulties, slurred speech, a feeling of weakness, drowsiness, hoarseness and fear of death can also be the consequences of the insect venom allergy. The most severe form of insect venom allergy is the shock reaction with additional blue discoloration of the lips, unavoidable leakage of urine or stool, unconsciousness, drop in blood pressure and collapse (anaphylactic shock). Up to 20 people die every year in Germany alone from the causes of an insect venom allergy.
In the worst case, an insect venom allergy can lead to death if it is severe and no medical treatment is given after the insect bite. If contact with insects is avoided, however, the insect venom allergy does not lead to any further symptoms or complications. If a sting occurs, in most cases the patient suffers from various symptoms.
There is swelling and burning pain at the injection site. Itching also occurs and the affected person may suffer from shortness of breath. It is not uncommon for a circulatory shock to occur and the person concerned can lose consciousness. Those affected often suffer from dizziness and anxiety, and panic attacks are not uncommon. There is a feeling of tightness in the chest and often abdominal pain.
For this reason, after an insect bite, treatment should definitely be carried out so that irreversible consequential damage does not occur. The treatment itself is carried out with the help of medication and does not lead to further symptoms or complications. With early treatment, the life expectancy of those affected is not affected by the insect venom allergy.
When should you go to the doctor?
An insect venom allergy can be life-threatening, so it is better for those affected to visit the doctor once too often than not enough, especially if there are accompanying symptoms after an insect bite, such as severe reddening of the sting site, itching and wheal formation. An allergic reaction can also cause swelling of the face and neck, often accompanied by shortness of breath. If you get a sting in your mouth, see a doctor immediately. If, after an insect bite, your eyes are watering, your throat is scratching, your nose is running, plus symptoms such as dizziness, tachycardia, chest tightness, nausea, vomiting, swallowing and speech problems through to impaired consciousness, an emergency doctor is a mustbe called, it could be a sign of an allergic shock. Allergic shock is life-threatening and can lead to circulatory failure with respiratory failure.
People who suffer from an insect venom allergy that has already been diagnosed usually carry an emergency kit with them. You should always carry this with you and inform people in the area what to do in an emergency. If necessary, the doctor can also carry out immunotherapy for desensitization.
Treatment & Therapy
Insect venom allergy can be diagnosed with a blood and skin test. If the symptoms mentioned occur after an insect bite, an allergist should be consulted immediately, as an allergy to insect venom can be fatal under certain circumstances. If an insect venom allergy is known, the person concerned should always have a liquid cortisone preparation, a liquid antihistamine and adrenaline in the form of a pre-filled syringe or spray with them in their own interest.
Insect venom allergy can also be treated with immunotherapy. Such hyposensitization in the case of an insect venom allergy usually lasts for three to five years. The success rate is around 90 percent. In the context of rapid immunotherapy, however, the desired hyposensitization can be achieved after just a few days or weeks. However, such a quick method requires constant monitoring by an allergist, since the risk of anaphylactic shock in the case of an insect bite allergy is very high.
Individuals suffering from insect venom allergy require proper aftercare. Various measures can be taken immediately after treating the shock, depending on the type and severity of the allergy. After an allergic shock, which occurs as a result of an insect venom allergy that has not yet been diagnosed, the patient is usually referred to an allergist, who takes over the treatment and initiates further measures.
The doctor monitors the course of the disease and can issue an allergy pass for newly diagnosed allergy sufferers. With the help of the passport, the patient can be given a suitable medication quickly in an emergency. This emergency medication must be prescribed as part of the follow-up care. The allergist also informs the patient about immunotherapy. The so-called VIT treatment makes the body tolerant to insect venom.
Finally, a change in lifestyle is also part of aftercare. Allergy sufferers should strictly avoid contact with insects and ensure that emergency medication and the allergy pass are always to hand. Affected children should be informed by their parents about the risks and safety measures. Secondary and tertiary prevention minimizes the risk of another allergic shock. Follow-up care should be provided by an allergist, family doctor or other relevant specialist.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis of an insect venom allergy is usually favorable. The intensity and extent of the insect venom allergy and the state of health of the person affected are decisive for the further course.
In the case of very mild symptoms of poisoning, self-help measures are often sufficient to alleviate the symptoms. Removing an insect stinger and sucking out the venom may be enough to relieve the symptoms. Recovery can be expected in these cases after the wound has healed.
With increasing severity of physical impairments and health disorders, the need for medical care is necessary. With a quick and professional treatment, there is an improvement within a short time. Complete freedom from symptoms usually occurs within a few days. Medical care should be provided immediately, since it is difficult to predict what physical reactions the allergy will cause, especially in the case of allergy sufferers.
In isolated cases, an allergic shock reaction can occur. This harbors a potential danger to life and therefore indicates a particularly unfavorable course of the disease. Since there is the possibility of a life-threatening development, a doctor’s consultation is necessary as soon as the first major irregularities occur or the symptoms increase. If the affected person is hyposensitive, the risk of anaphylactic shock increases. Without special protective measures and sufficient precautions, there is a risk of an emergency situation.
You can do that yourself
If you have an insect venom allergy, you should see a doctor first. The doctor will first diagnose the allergy and then issue an allergy ID card to the person concerned. This should always be worn – as should the emergency set with cortisone, adrenaline and the like. Above all, however, you should try to avoid contact with insects.
Hyposensitization is recommended for patients who are exposed to an increased risk of insect bites due to their job or their living conditions. When walking outdoors, it is important to avoid “tempting” places for wasps, bees and the like. In addition, long, light-colored, tight-fitting clothing and closed-toe shoes should be worn. At home, it is best to install an insect screen. Special scents from the pharmacy that drive away the insects can be placed on the doors and windows.
If, despite all precautionary measures, an insect bite should occur, first aid must be provided immediately. First, the sting must be removed, after which the puncture site should be cooled and covered. Anyone with a severe allergy should call the emergency doctor and use the emergency medication they have brought with them. The German Allergy and Asthma Association offers further helpful tips.